5 December 2013

Eighteen months and very little wisdom.

Just over eighteen months ago I packed my bags, threw all my money at Planet Cake, Qantas and The Merton Hotel and jetted off to Sydney, Australia.

Just like that, my cake decorating journey began and I had very little knowledge of what I was doing or what to expect. Looking back now, I really was in way over my head.

Here are five bits of wisdom that I've learnt along my journey so far...

1. Don't get intimidated if everyone in a class is better than you.
You're there to learn. So what if everyone else has more experience than you? Focus on what you're doing, and do not compare your outcomes to the others. Only compare your outcome to what you started with - and have fun while you're there!

Don't forget to have fun in class! This Stand Up Guitar Class with The Cupcake Lady was exciting - REALLY exciting by the look on my face! Enjoy it! Photo also starring Kate from Vanilla Rose Cakery and Lauren from Cake Art by Lauren.

2. Don't be afraid to ask for help.
My whole life I was always the quiet girl in class who kept her head down and got on with the work, no questions asked. It got me through school quite fine.

Cake decorating was another story altogether. I needed help. I had no idea what I was doing. Reading the notes wouldn't get me through this time.

The teachers were busy with other students who were louder and more demanding of their time. The amount of times I almost gave up in tears because I couldn't figure out how to do things is really quite embarrassing. The thing is, the teachers are there to help everyone. Just because you're quiet, doesn't mean you deserve any less attention than the others. You all paid the same for this class so make sure you get your moneys worth! Ask for help!

3. Make sure you have the right tools for the job.
You wouldn't ask a carpenter to build a cabinet without the correct tools, so why should you be any different? I don't mean go out and spend thousands of dollars on every single gadget you can find. But if there's a tool you know you definitely need to get a certain effect on a cake, make sure you have it before you start. Don't do what I've done many times and get halfway through a cake before realising 'Oh shit... I don't have the cutters to make the flower I wanted... what now?!''.

Acrylic Cake Scraper from The Cupcake Lady - an essential cake decorating tool!

4. Learn from as many people as possible.
When I started, I thought Planet Cake was the be all and end all of cake decorating. I thought they would teach me the best skills I could possibly learn.

They taught me a lot and the skills I learnt were invaluable, but then I did another class with The Cupcake Lady. She taught me new techniques and new skills. Then I did a class with Handi. He taught me new techniques and new skills too!

There are so many different ways to do things and not all of them will work for you. The techniques I now use to ganache and cover my cakes aren't what I learnt from Planet cake. They aren't what I learnt from The Cupcake Lady. They aren't what I learnt from Handi. What they are is bits and pieces from each that I found worked for me. Experiment, practice, observe, and learn as much as you can from as many people as you can!

5. Focus on you.
I've only been in the cake industry for nine months now and I've seen some crazy things. Competition is one that will never sit well with me.

Unfortunately, like in any industry, you will face competitors that aren't so friendly. You can't really blame people. They're trying to maintain profits and market share and support their families. They will want to check out your business and see what you're doing and try to do one better. It's normal and expected. Most business experts will tell you that checking out and keeping an eye on your competition is vital to your success.

You know what it can also do? Destroy your confidence. Waste your time. Ruin your creativity.

You can spend so much time looking at the creations of others that you feel like you can no longer compete. You can spend so many hours scouring Facebook to see what others are doing that you're losing time that could be better spent on improving your business.

If you find yourself doing any of these things, it's time to shut down the computer. Focus on you, your business (or hobby), and improving yourself. Don't worry about what anyone else is doing!

So, that's my five lessons learnt in my journey so far! Yes, they're cake decorating related and I know not all of you lovely readers are cake decorators - but I hope you can see how this advice can relate to other industries, and life in general.

What wisdom have you learnt so far in your career or life?

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